What makes Swedish design, fashion and architecture instantly recognisable? Most likely, the answer will be a strong focus on simplicity, craftmanship and sustainable values. These traits permeate every facet of Swedish lifestyle and are today transforming major brands, not least in the food and agricultural industries.

The food industry is Sweden’s third largest sector with a turnover of SEK 200 billion and employs around 48,000 people at 4,800 companies around the country. Sweden’s food imports are currently twice as large as export volumes (approx. SEK 50 billion worth). To turn this development around, the Swedish government has launched the National Food Strategy which aims to facilitate a more self-sufficient and globally competitive food industry by 2030, and to stimulate growth and job creation across the country.

GOING PLANT-BASED

Circularity and healthy, increasingly plant-based food have become major focal points for today’s food producers. Swedish food tech startups and many established companies are now at the forefront of developing plant-based protein products, using the Swedish agricultural tradition to transform traditional crops like oat, peas and lupin into new, healthy food and beverage products. Surveys have shown that one in every five Swedes under the age of 30 identify as either vegan or vegetarian which has spurred demand for vegan brands.  

Companies that started out small in Sweden (think Oatly) have broken into major consumer markets abroad such as the US and China. Meanwhile, Sweden’s AgTech sector has rapidly expanded. Collaboration initiatives are ramping up to shape tomorrow’s agriculture by introducing sensors, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and other digital technologies that will optimise food production and harvests. There are at least 20 startups today in the AgTech sector, several of which are addressing global challenges in the food production system.      

Another thriving sector in food is aquatech. Sweden is currently building a land-based fish farming industry powered by renewable energy, where aquaculture systems use water that is recirculated through mechanical and biological filters.

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ECO-FRIENDLY FASHION AND DESIGN

Besides food and beverage, the ecosystem encompasses fashion, beauty and design where sustainability has firmly made its way into the mainstream. Swedish shoppers are among the most environmentally conscious and discerning consumers in the world, making the country an ideal testing ground for eco-friendly concepts.

According to a recent survey, as many as 72 per cent of Swedish consumers confirm that sustainability influences their purchasing decisions. As such, it is no surprise that organic fashion and eco-friendly products are increasing their market share and significance both online and offline.

Sweden is also a renowned test bed for innovation, design, and digitalisation. A typical example is the innovation hub Re:textile which explores new design principles and production systems to enable circular flows in the textile industry.

Five key strengths of Sweden’s Creative Industries and Food ecosystem:

  • Pioneering lifestyle and organic brands with a global reputation for sustainability and high quality
  • Vibrant entrepreneurial environment, advanced IT skills and strong culture of cross-disciplinary collaboration with sector symbiosis
  • Agricultural sector with strong focus on animal health and the lowest usage of antibiotics in the EU, coupled with the EU’s strictest food standards
  • International top-ranking universities for design, plant and animal science, supported by more than 20 test beds focusing on food innovation and waste reduction, AgTech innovations, textiles recycling and sensor systems
  • Tech savvy population and environmentally aware consumers – making Sweden a perfect testing ground for eco-friendly and digitally enabled products

In total, the retail sector in Sweden comprises some 120,000 companies with a turnover of SEK 416 billion (2019). At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Sweden’s e-commerce sector achieved record sales and overall e-commerce hit 21 per cent growth in 2020. An independent study has shown that 70 per cent of Swedish consumers make online purchases at least once a month.

In addition, Swedish consumers increasingly expect customisable experiences from the brands they interact with in a way that fits their busy lifestyles, personalities and preferences.

INSPIRING A SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE

The Creative Industries and Food ecosystem is not only booming at home but is well positioned to inspire consumers looking for healthy food and eco-friendly fashion and lifestyle products in global markets. Business Sweden works closely with startups, midcorps and multinationals alike to leverage Sweden’s competitive edge on the international stage.

Similarly, we work with international companies looking to tap into the sustainability advantages of these industries in Sweden, helping to secure investments in companies that have international growth potential. We do this primarily through three main trade promotion programmes:

Try Swedish: The programme Try Swedish is commissioned by the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation and hosts numerous promotional activities every year in markets such as the UK, Germany, the US, Japan, Singapore and China. The goal is to boost awareness and get international audiences to discover everything that makes Swedish food culture and lifestyle unique.

Future Foods: Working with companies across the entire food value chain, this programme promotes Swedish food exports and takes an active part in the international business expansion of SMEs. It is also designed to attract international companies to Sweden’s food sector by highlighting the innovations and sustainability strengths of Swedish brands.

Sustainable Lifestyle: This programme includes designated export coaching activities promoting all lifestyle-related products and services, from innovative Swedish fashion, beauty and cosmetics to furniture and design. In addition, the programme showcases Swedish tech solutions in e-commerce, omnichannel and digital payment solutions to a global audience while also highlighting international solutions in Sweden.

Are you a foreign investor looking to establish or expand your business in Sweden’s Creative Industries and Food ecosystem? Our team can provide all the assistance and insights you need.

If you are a Swedish company looking to expand your business abroad, don’t hesitate to contact us for strategic advice and hands-on support.